The grass always seems greener on the other side, but not in the case of these Malaysians who prove that talent is not restricted to race or nationality. This year has seen a slew of enlightening stories represented by these 8 budding national treasures, who made our year complete. These go-getters not only did us proud on an international scale – they also represented how diversity – a Malaysian attribute – in age, gender, race and industry were not a hindrance when it comes to outstanding success. Read on for some local inspiration.

Edmund Yeo

Take your eyes off Hollywood for a change, and look closer to home: This filmmaker was awarded the best director for his directorial film We The Dead (Aqerat) at the Tokyo Grand Prix Awards in October 2017, beating 14 other finalists from around the world, of a total 1,538 titles from 88 countries. The film explored the situation of the Rohingya immigrants human trafficking at the Malaysian-Thailand border and effectively caught audience’s attention.

See also: Bend It Like Guriender Chadha: 5 Ways To Better Malaysian Films

Adnan Zikri Jaafar

It takes a whole lot of intelligence, talent, commitment and purpose to attain the esteemed Rhodes Scholarship, and Malaysian Adnan Zikri Jaafar was 1 of the 2 students at University of Pennsylvania to receive it. Adnan will be pursuing a masters degree at the University of Oxford, on evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation, as well as a masters in financial economics. When he’s juggling multiple subjects, he volunteers in refugee work and social justice work, as he endeavours to make a difference to the world.

Wong Kar Ling

22-year-old Wong Kar Ling is proof that you can be young, and a model citizen to the world. In September 2016, Kar Ling earned the most outstanding delegate award in the Model United Nations conference in Sarawak. This is one enormous stepping stone to the future aspirations of this third-year law student of Universiti Malaya – she is on a quest to being an ambassador of Malaysia, and making it a point to motivate and educate students of their potential along the way.

Heidy Quah

How often does a young Malaysian get to meet Queen Elizabeth II herself, and be honoured for championing a cause so close to your heart? 23-year-old Heidy Quah did, and she’s the only Malaysian to have received the prestigious Yong Leaders award, too. Heidy’s work with running her own NGO Refuge for The Refugees which offers protection and safety to unfortunate immigrants, started off 5 years ago, and to date, supports 35 schools caring for 2,000 young refugees.

See also: 9 Facts To Know About Queen Elizabeth II

Tony Savarimuthu

Leaders define the future and strengthen the company – under Tony Savarimuthu’s guidance; the Dentsu Merdeka LHS executive office couldn’t be more steady. Recently awarded with the International Advertising Associations Inspire Global Champion Award in October, Tony was recognised on a global scale for his contribution in advancing communications in the world marketing and advertising segment. With 25 years leading at McCann Worldgroup, Leo Burnett and the Malaysian 4A, Tony is certainly a valuable asset.

Dr Debra Sim Si Mui

Behind her humble demeanour is a figure that’s improving health and education by leaps and bounds in the medical sector. Dr Debra Sim counts professionalism and integrity as her core values, and despite winning numerous educational awards, there’s no limit to her own learning curves. Among her accomplishments are the notable ‘Teaching in Health Sciences for the 10th National Academic Awards 2016 for the academicians, numerous ‘Best Lecture Awards in para-clinical category’ as well as Universiti of Malaya’s Exellent Service Awards’.

Tash Aw

Tash Aw’s first novel The Harmony Silk Factory, was published in 2005, to multiple honours like the 2005 Whitbread Book Awards First Novel Award and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel (Asia Pacific region), as well as translated into 20 languages. He’s come a long way since then, writing 2 other novels and a non-fiction in 2016, The Face: Strangers on a Pier, that earned finalist status at the LA Times Book Prize. His most recent achievement: earning an Honorary Doctor of Letters from his alma mater University of Warwick, UK, to be received in January 2018.

See also: Travel Writer David Bowden Reveals 7 Reasons To Take Train Trips In Australia

Felicia Yap

While some view Felicia Yap’s bold move from a dazzling science career to a modest novelist as a demotion, it is literally #lifegoals for some. Especially when your debut novel gets auctioned for a near 6-figure deal, marking a sensational bid of the publication industry. Felicia is blessed with beauty and brains, having studied biochemistry at the Imperial College London and then pursuing a PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. Felicia’s thriller, Yesterday, has won over literary big wigs and fans that she’s in the works for a prequel book.

Personalities compiled by Pauline Cheng

© 2021 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.